Once the norm, later an economic necessity, and now a growing trend – more and more multigenerational families are living together under a single roof.
“Granny, come”, yells two-year-old Lily, using her tiny fists to pummel on the connecting door. “I’m here, dear”, replies a grey-haired lady, opening the door just a few moments later and opening her arms for her granddaughter to run into. Both of them spend their mornings together while Mammy and Daddy are at work and older brother Jack is at school. All live together under the same roof in a residential model that is now regaining popularity. The resurgence of multigenerational households can be seen as a reaction to rising construction costs, exploding utility prices and higher fees for kindergartens and retirement homes – all coupled with declining salaries and pensions.
Splitting the bills
With two sets of future residents, greater financial resources are available for building a home and paying off any mortgage. What’s more, the high cost of building land, particularly in overcrowded urban areas, is no longer a major barrier when the outlay for a suitable plot can be shared. The fact that a multigenerational house can be erected on a much smaller site than two detached homes is a further advantage.
The tax authorities actually provide incentives for extended families to live together, although in something of an indirect way. When the erected building is energy-efficient, subsidies can be secured for each individual residential unit – effectively doubling the total amount. By renting the self-contained flat to the grandparents once the building has been built, the owners can enjoy even more tax benefits. Through joint planning, huge savings can be made on red tape, contractor’s fees and infrastructure costs – a good-sized heating system in the larger part of the house is easily able to keep the smaller part warm as well.
Common areas and space of one’s own
When several generations live together under one roof, there’s bound to be friction from time to time. So it’s important for everyone to have their own space to retreat to. It’s best to design the building so that two completely unrelated families could live there. Two separate entrance doors are recommended, plus connecting elements for optional combination of the two units. Although it’s important to have space to withdraw to, it’s also vital to plan a common area where people can come together – such as a large living room or dining room.
Flexibility is key for the multigenerational household, and is likewise a quality demonstrated by many prefabricated homes, owing to their modular structure. Their floor plans can be modified to meet the individual requirements of single homes, but also adapted to create two separate residential units. What was originally a “granny flat” can later be rented out, used by the au-pair girl or older children, or converted into an office.
An article by Tanja Müller